God, I wish I could tell you I knew an easy way to find places to to stay. In all these years, I’ve learned a few tricks, but booking a place to stay is still one of the most time-consuming and frustrating travel decisions I make.
Comfortable rooms make your trip better.
I’m thinking back to all those hotel bookings gone wrong:
- The smoke-stinking room with a cracked window that we booked on my first (and last!) walk-in hotel booking, in the Galapagos Islands. My father-in-law (who was traveling with us for the very first time) never let me live that one down.
- The brand new hotel we booked in South London that looked gorgeous and modern on the website. Not only was it a long walk from from the tube station and noisy as hell, the room was so small that Kevin couldn’t extend his legs on the bed. We had to shove all our things under the bed, because otherwise there wasn’t enough floor space to open the bathroom door.
- The awful all-inclusive resort in Jamaica, that we wound up with due to a booking mistake on the part of the hotel chain. Management refused to remedy the situation in any way, so there we stayed, trapped in the middle of nowhere, wishing we had just stayed home.
Whether you are trying to make the most of your limited vacation, or are a frequent traveler missing your bed at home, staying in a good place can enrich your trip and staying in a bad place can ruin it, or at the very least, make the trip a lot less fun.
Vacation Rentals are not the Answer
While we enjoy using vacation rental sites like Airbnb, Wimdu, and FlipKey, there are lots of ways these bookings can go wrong. I already shared one trip-killing vacation rental experience. Another happened last month. Just two days before arriving in Amsterdam, our rental’s host cancelled our reservation leaving us with nowhere to stay in a very expensive city. The only decent option was more than double the cost of the Wimdu rental. It was also a very car-oriented business travel hotel in a suburb outside of Amsterdam. While the room was nice, the hotel was a very long walk down an unlit wooded trail from the regional train station. After making the trek on foot twice, we wound up paying extra for the hotel shuttle to take us back and forth every other time.
Lost in the Amsterdam suburbs. The train station was WAY down there, past the Ikea you can see in the distance. At least the trail was kind of pretty.
In both of these cases, I know I would have had better luck getting help, if I’d booked a hotel.
So I’m game to try ANYTHING that can help take the drama out of figuring out where to stay.
Yonderbound: A New Way To Book a Hotel
A few weeks ago I learned about a new hotel booking website called Yonderbound. The company reached out to me and asked me to give it a try. Haunted by all of these hotel booking debacles, I agreed to check it out.
Here are some of the things that I liked:
1. The visual interface and booking tool.
The core feature of the site are user-created “Yonderboxes,” which are photo-based sets of hotels laid out to look and feel like boards on my favorite social network, Pinterest. Each box contains hotels–either places they recommend, or options for an upcoming trip. In many cases, the recommendations include detailed user-written reviews, that reminds me of one of my favorite travel apps, Afar. Unlike, both Pinterest and Afar, Yonderbound allows you to see the price and book the hotel right from within the list.
I set up a few Yonderboxes, including this list of hotels I like that are near California National Parks:
I haven’t used it for brainstorming places yet, but I will use it once I’m ready to plan my next trip. I’ve used Pinterest for collecting hotel ideas before, but Yonderbound is tailor-made for this.
2. Prices include all taxes and fees!
The searches INCLUDE ALL TAXES AND FEES. This is a big deal for me, because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve budgeted a certain amount for a hotel, and I get there to find there are $50 or more in additional charges I need to pay in taxes and fees. The worst are the absolutely egregious “resort fees”–a mandatory extra charge for amenities that should be just part of the hotel? I hate that, and Yonderbound takes those into consideration when calculating the hotel’s price.
3. Read reviews, and earn money for your reviews!
The tool is synced with TripAdvisor, to pull from their huge database of user reviews. You also get the reviews that Yonderbound users have provided in their Yonderbox listings. I tried to be very helpful in my reviews.
Finally, if anyone books a hotel night based on your reviews and recommendations, you will earn a referral bonus (“Yondercredit”) that you can then apply to save money on your next booking. That’s a big selling point to me, because you don’t earn anything from those oh-so-detailed reviews you write on other travel sites. I’m all for charity and greatful for this useful user-generated database, but I don’t like that these very profitable travel companies have built their fortune on the back of unpaid reviewers–you should be paid for your work!
Things that can be improved:
Yonderbound does not (yet) include any vacation rental services, like AirBNB, FlipKey, etc, so you’re still on your own searching these listings. There are also some hotels I’ve stayed at that I would love to recommend, but aren’t currently showing up in their list. For the time being, I would compare Yonderbound’s results with another hotel aggregator to be sure you’re seeing all the options.
I do understand the site is brand new and they are working to identify bugs and build out the hotel database right now. They are also planning to expand beyond just hotels to also include other features like restaurants, tours, and transportation which I think will help the site provide a lot more value to travelers like you and me.
What do you think?
Sign up for Yonderbound (use this link and get $10 for free!), and let me know. I’m going to be working with them over the next few months to help build out their product, so I’m eager to know how it works for you. What do you like? What don’t you like? What’s missing. Let me know what would make the hotel booking process easier for you.
I’ve been asked to be an expert contributor for Yonderbound and I will be compensated for this partnership. All opinions are certainly my own.